I was born in 1976 so am 36 years as of 2012, I was born in a poo polygamous family. I am the second born in a family of 25 kids 10 of which never lived beyond their 15th birthday. Life was tough from the outset. Going to school bear foot, not having enough to eat, carrying a 20 water jerry can of water for more than 3km, our house was only 3 rooms and banana fibre thatched, overall, I had a tough but happy childhood.
My birth place is about 150km from Kampala, the capital of Uganda, towards South western Uganda, it was not until I was 12 that I saw a television set for the first time, and the first camera photograph taken of me was when I was 10 years of age.
Generally I was average in class during primary school, and one of the reasons was that we did miss classes a lot for not paying school fees on time. I remember being talkative and the story teller by the age of 10 in my class generally retelling African children stories as told to me by mum.
My dad was a small time trader who generally was always away from home, so for the first 15 years of my life I lived with my mum and siblings. By age 10, I was demonstrating a leadership trait by forming and leading the village’s only football team able to compete with other villages although this put in trouble with a number parent who thought I was bad influence on their sons.
The best I hoped for at this time was to finish O’level and may be become a driver. Suffice to note that the first business I started was around age 10, I would buy a bunch sweet apple bananas, cut it into small pieces , I would wait for them to ripen and put them in basket and head to the nearby trading centre and make a decent return on my investment. This is how I was able to afford my first pair of plastic shoes.
Supprisingly I was the best candidate at my school when the results for Primary Leaving exams where released for my school centre together with another lad that scored the same aggregate as me.
This meant that I could get into a good school for secondary school but the problem was that we did not have enough money to afford a decent school. So I enrolled at a school that was 6 km away from our home and we had to walk on foot everyday to and from. In year two, I was expelled from school for being very talkative but my mum negotiated by readmission but the writing was on the wall that I could drop out of school.
In year 3 that’s 1992 my dad took me to study in Kampala and to live with him in Katwe slums of Kampala, I found myself moving from rural poverty to urban poverty. I managed to squeeze into a good school St.Peters S.S.S Nsambya but my English was way off the mark.
In order to improve I begun reading a lot of Novels and books spending many hours in the library. Life was really tough my dad economic activity could not guarantee food for more than a day, the room we were staying in was but about 4m x 4m, we even did not have a mattress later on bedsheets.
And the rent was never on time and so the Landlord would lock the toilet if we were late on our payment. I remember almost fainting at school after going 2 days without food.
In 1993 I emerged the second best student at my exam centre for O’level and a decision was taken to go for A’level, at this time I was hoping to become a lawyer or a journalist. In the meantime I used to sell small items especially to motor workshops to make ends meet. But I begun to learn the workings of the city and resolved not be corrupted by drugs and bad influence of living a slum. I continued going to church, the same church that I still go more than 20 years later.
A level was tough I did my best but I was competing more well facilliated candidates, I could not read at night as our one room shack did not have electricity and the result I missed being sponsored by the government to the University by a whisker and once again the future was in jeorpady. Gone where the dreams of becoming a lawyer or journalist. Luckily I was eventually a place to study Marketing diploma at Uganda’s leading business school (Makerere University Business School) which I completed in 1999. It is at the university that I met my future wife Martha but we did not date until 3 years out of college.
Looking for employment after school was a tough one, not knowing influencial people worsened the situation. The first job I got paid 20 British pounds a month and I quit after only 3 months. I got another one two months later that paid better ; 25 pounds but I resolved to prove my self first. After more than a year I had made my contribution participating in product introductions, managing key accounts and I decided to request for a salary increment, I was only offered 30 pounds and I choose to quit in 2001.
Having turned into abread winner for 4 of my siblings life was once again difficult without a job, but a friend of mine, Martha (my future wife) recommended for sales position for Apex Dry cleaners, then Uganda’s leading drycleaning business and I was once again lucky to have a job that paid 50 pounds barely enough to live on. Working for Apex introduced me to a different kind of people very different from those that I knew from the slums. As a sales and marketing officer I was dealing with Uganda’s most influential politicians and business people and I begun to imagine life outside the slum. I quickly rose through the ranks by 2003 I was made the Acting General Manager of the company managing about 25 people. I learnt to hire and fire people.
In December 2003 I got married to Martha and since then God has blessed 3 wonderfull children. But getting married once again exposed my earnings and they could not support a family and my siblings. True to form I registered my own company Clean Consult Limited without any capital and quit my job at the end of 2004. It was a very tough decision but one that had to be taken. I begin building from scratch and God was my side and Clean consult limited did not only survive its first year in business but has been growing 8 straight years. It currently employs more than 60 employees and is a respected brand in the cleaning business in Uganda.
In 2005 one Saturday morning I received a call from my Pastor to help out on faltering microfinance program at the church. This Program had mobilized 10,000 USD and lent it out to about 50 people, 68% of which where never able to repay their loan. The reason people had failed to pay back was that they had commited very basic business mistakes. We did not save the program but the gave birth to a business training program that equips micro enterpreneuers with the skills they need to start and run small businesses.
This in a way is has became my Saul to Paul moment, having seen what engaging in business can do to lift someone out poverty first hand it is my calling to help as many people as possible to get out of poverty. I am not interested in getting rich alone. In order to take care of the needs training program we incorporated an organization, Living Business Education in 2010.
Living Business Education works in Uganda and on international assignments to faciliatate the formation and growth of sustainanble businesses ending poverty. We work with the support of our Partners The Africa Trust.
As Livingstone Mukasa, I act as the business advisor for the Africa Trust.
I have facilitated training for about 5000 people to date and I continue to be passionate about the role of business as a means of ending global poverty.